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Making the Call

“Am I not good enough anymore? Do you need me AND Perry to be with you all the time?”


not that I thought ninth grade would be easy. But I thought, with Mindy coming with me, it would be easier.

“We’re still gonna be friends, right?” Mindy asked, as she watched me straighten my hair from her perch on my bed.

“Duh!” I snorted, “Always!”

The truth is, we were both nervous about starting a new school, but Mindy was more anxious than I was. Shy by nature, she tended to follow me wherever I went, her slow and steady disposition tempering my impulsivity and keeping me in check. A faithful friend like her was hard to come by. I knew I’d always have Mindy.

The first couple weeks of high school went relatively smoothly. My classmates and I bumbled between classrooms, leaving things in our lockers that shouldn’t be there, trying to remember all our teachers’ names and each of their million and one rules. “Is it Chumash now or Navi?” I panted to Mindy, while trying to catch three folders and a large hole-puncher cascading out of my messy locker. “Navi,” Mindy said, calmly pointing at her schedule stuck neatly on her loose-leaf. “Come on, you’re going to be late!” Good old Mindy.

It took some time, but slowly I started to settle in and got to know new girls. Mostly, I enjoyed hanging out with Perry. She sat near me in math and was a real ball of fun. “Psst! Look, here!” Perry hissed at me one math lesson. She was gesturing toward her calculator, on the desk between us. I looked closer and smiled. Perry had configured her calculator to write in letters instead of numbers. This was definitely an upgrade to note writing on paper. While Mrs. Konig wended her way around the classroom, Perry showed me how to change the settings on my calculator, too. Soon enough, we had left our equations behind and were deeply involved in an intense calculator conversation. I had a lot of math homework that night.

Having Perry around certainly made life more interesting and more intense. Only thing was, Mindy knew this too, and she didn’t like it. “Perry this, Perry that, that’s all you ever say nowadays!” she moaned as we sat in her yard one Shabbos afternoon.

“Can’t I talk about other friends?” I bristled, eyes watering from the sourest jellybean I’d ever tasted. “Also, what flavor was that? Don’t let me eat it again!”

Mindy laughed and took the bowl away. The conversation was over, and we moved on.

Still, it continued to bother me that Mindy objected to my new friendship. I knew Mindy was having a harder time making friends because she was so shy, and I wanted Mindy to be okay with Perry. I set about trying to make us a neat little threesome, where everyone could be involved. It seemed like a good plan at the time.

At first, Mindy and Perry didn’t get each other at all. I was the glue who brought them together, since when they were left alone Mindy told me there were often awkward silences and palpable relief when I returned. Still, I was determined. I invited Perry to join me and Mindy on our Sunday excursions, and I schlepped Mindy to my seat in the classroom at recess. Perry seemed quite unbothered by it all, but Mindy was hurt.

“Am I not good enough anymore? Do you need me AND Perry to be with you all the time?”

I sighed. “It’s not about that, Mindy. I just want to be both of your friends, is that not possible?”

Mindy pouted, but then Perry arrived.

This went on for about two months. Perry continued being her cheerful, vivacious and engaging self, while Mindy, with her insecurities, got grumpier and grumpier until even I ran out of patience.

“Mindy, you need to help yourself!” I lectured her. “If you don’t want to spend time with Perry then don’t, but at least try not to be such a grump!”

Mindy just gave me a weird look.

Mindy behaved frostily toward me for the next couple of days. Still, I was heading out of town for my cousin’s wedding the next week, and I thought that by the time I got back, Mindy would have come to her senses. When I called her to say goodbye, she sounded distant and moody. I sighed and picked up the phone to call Perry. At least she was happy for me.

Sholom’s wedding was a blast. With my powder blue gown and hair all up, I forgot all about ninth grade for a while.

Only four days had passed since I’d been in school last, but when I walked into recess in my groggy state the next afternoon, something felt different. Mindy and Perry were sitting at my seat, and I walked right over.

“Hi, hi!” I said enthusiastically.

They looked up. “Hi yourself,” Perry offered. Mindy gave a wan smile.

Wow, she’s still upset at me, I thought, then grabbed a chair to sit down. No time like the present to make amends.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work like that at all.

The rest of that day was strained and awkward. I tried to talk to Perry and Mindy, but there was something weird going on between us, and some part of me felt like I was intruding somehow. But that was too weird, I thought; after all, it was I who connected them. Still, something just felt off.

My hunch became stronger and stronger over the next few days. While originally, I had thought only Mindy was being cold towards me, after a couple of rather boring math classes, I realized that Perry was far from her usual self around me, too. When I called her to chat, her mother said she was out, and when I called Mindy, I heard Perry’s muted giggle in the background as Mindy said she was busy. Adding two and two together, I was beginning to understand. These friends, who I had brought together, were now excluding me.

The next few weeks of school were indescribably hurtful. Each recess I would watch Perry walk over to Mindy’s desk to chat, and they would sit, heads bent together, talking, ignoring me if I tried to join. I found myself crying at random points during the day, and when the class was told to choose partners for a project, I sat rooted to my spot, unsure of where to turn. In the end, I worked with Tzivia, who was sweet enough. But watching Mindy and Perry giggle together was like a knife in my heart, as the unfairness of it all boiled inside me. How could they do this to me? Where were their middos? Where was Mindy’s steadfast loyalty? Something inside me kept shattering, as these questions whizzed around, unanswered. I skipped school a few times and recess became a torturous exercise of trying desperately to find someone to talk to. I had never felt so hurt in my life.

Time passed and I made new friends, but the pain remained deep within me. My trust in others had suffered, and each friendship was painstakingly built, with much suspicion on my part. I hated Mindy and Perry for what they’d done to me, and I resolved to never talk to them again. I threw away old pictures of Mindy and me together, and I went through a grief process that only those who have lost a true friend can understand. I was sure I would never forgive them.

It was only later, much later, that I began to see things more clearly. After Perry had dropped Mindy, and moved onto her next “friend,” I began to see a pattern emerging: Perry, it seemed, had a fantastic spell over anyone she wanted, especially those who were shy or insecure. She could make and break friendships with terrifying ease, wreaking havoc in her charismatic way, often leaving charred remains of friendship in her wake. Still, I found it hard to be near Mindy. Once Perry dropped her, Mindy was desperately lonely, and I knew it. But there was a part of me so filled with feelings of distrust and betrayal that I could not look at her in the eye. Mindy got it. She didn’t even try.

Both of us were in pain. Neither of us could forget. But slowly, I started to heal.

I’m not sure what compelled me to even bother. Maybe it was the wistfulness in Mindy’s eyes as she watched Perry and her newfound friend whispering in the corner, just days after it had been her. Or maybe it was the sincere regret I knew she felt, each time I walked past her. Somehow, by the end of ninth grade, something in me felt ready to reach out. One beautiful June evening, I dialed the once-familiar number, and felt my heart race as Mindy picked up the phone. The phone line went still after I said hello and I gulped, suddenly having no idea what I was going to say. All the words left my mind as I sat there, listening to Mindy breathe, then sob, as I realized: We both had a long way to go toward trusting again. But someone had to make the first call.


(Originally featured in Teen Pages, Issue 926)

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